ELLSWORTH, Maine — Hannah Leeman says she was more angry than scared Wednesday afternoon when an escaped inmate got into the car she was in and threatened to kill her if she didn’t get out.
“I was pissed,” the 18-year-old Leeman said Thursday. “My trip back to Portland had already been delayed. And I was thinking that my friend was going to come out and find her car gone. I needed to get to Portland. I needed to get back to work.”
Police on Wednesday mistakenly gave her age as 19.
Leeman, a 2009 graduate of Ellsworth High School who spent her senior year in Romania, is living and working in Portland while planning to attend the New England Institute of Art in Brookline, Mass., next year. She was back in the area visiting when the incident occurred, she said Thursday by phone from Portland.
“My friend had run into the Grasshopper Shop to return something, and she left the keys in the ignition,” she said. “I was talking on the phone and this guy came up and looked in the window. He looked at me and at the key.”
The guy was Timothy Sawyer, 42, of Brooklin. He had been arrested a few days earlier and had just run out of the Superior Court courtroom at the Hancock County Court House on State Street.
Leeman, however, didn’t know that and said she didn’t think much about the guy until he walked around to the other side of the car.
“He came around and got into the car. I started to attack him. I was shouting at him, ‘Get out of my car.’”
That was when he threatened to kill her, according to police and Leeman.
“He said, ‘Get out or I’m going to kill you,’” Leeman said. “‘I’ve got a gun, I’ll shoot you.’ I told him I didn’t believe him.”
According to Leeman, Sawyer then drove away from the parking space and headed up Bridge Hill.
“I was screaming at him,” Leeman said. “I said, ‘What do you think you’re doing, stealing a car with someone in it?’
“He said he just lost everything. And I told him that now he was going to jail,” Leeman said. “He said he just got out, and I said, ‘Well, now you’re going back.’”
During the exchange, Leeman said, she continued to hit and kick Sawyer. Although Leeman said he had threatened to kill her, she said the only time he made any move toward her was when he tried to grab the cell phone on which she had been talking.
“He tried to grab my phone from me. But I twisted his arm and called 911,” she said.
Sawyer was driving the whole time and when they reached the area near the Black House on Route 172 Sawyer stopped the car, and Leeman said she took the keys out of the ignition and told him to get out.
“He said, ‘Fine. I’ll get out of the car.’ He opened the door and I kicked him out of the car,” she said. “Then I watched him walk away and get tackled.”
Officers from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the Ellsworth Police Department had been alerted to the escape from the courthouse and had begun to search for Sawyer. When Leeman’s call came in, Deputy Jeff McFarland and Officer Chris Smith responded.
According to McFarland, Sawyer took off when the officers pulled up. After a short chase, the two officers tackled the man.
Leeman said that she was still angry afterward and that her main concern was how to get her friend’s car back to Main Street.
“I have my permit, but I had no driver in the car,” she said. “I had to drive back by myself.”
Sawyer had been in court on Wednesday in connection with a probation violation, according to Bill Entwistle of the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office had moved for a revocation of his probation on a previous probation violation.
It was during the court proceeding that Sawyer attempted to escape, according to authorities. Deputy McFarland said Thursday that one of the court officers left the courtroom to get some papers and Sawyer just “bolted for the door.”
Two guards from the Hancock County Jail were in the courtroom and chased Sawyer initially, but because there were other inmates in the courtroom, they could not continue their pursuit, Jail Administrator Carl Dannenberg said Thursday.
As a matter of procedure, Dannenberg said, the jail will review its procedures.
“We’ve got good procedures,” he said. “We just want to make sure we do things right.”
Sawyer was back in court again Thursday to be arraigned on charges stemming from the escape incident. According to Entwistle, he was charged with escape, robbery, kidnapping, terrorizing and theft.
Looking back, Leeman said, she would have done one thing differently.
“I should have gotten out of the car and tackled him and held him down,” she said. “I was really pissed.”
Leeman said she never considered getting out of the car.
“I can read a person pretty well. He was shaking when he dropped into the car. I’m sure he thought that this little girl with glasses would just get out and do what he said. That was his poor judgment. Not mine,” she said.
“I was on the wrestling team for a while. I wasn’t that concerned.”